Starlight Express is the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on toy trains that sing, dance and race each other... it shouldn't work, but it does.
When I first seriously started going to London for shows Starlight Express had already departed from the Apollo Victoria Theatre and Wicked had just taken up residency. I missed the Starlight tour that followed and was very depressed that I would never get to see the show I'd always wanted to see - at least not soon. It was New Years Eve, December 2011 when Arlene Phillips tweeted that Starlight Express would return in the new year. The dates soon followed and none of my beloved local theatres were on the list. So it was off to Nottingham I went!
The set for this tour, is simple and uses mainly lighting. It works as a toy train set, and the little train going round and round as the audience take their seats is a cute little entertaining feature. The only downside to the design is that the curtains in the wings are constantly flying open and the lights are on the other side - so you can see everything. You can also see the stage-hands waiting on stage to move the ramps around which is a little distracting.
Perhaps the biggest change (aside from the ever-changing musical numbers) in the show from the London production is the 3D screen that drops in to show the races. It is completely impractical to build the huge racecourse tracks around the auditorium like the original production and so the 3D is perhaps the most modern and exciting way to do this. The 3D glasses were those cardboard ones and I'm not sure whether it was the glasses or the quality of the screen that let down the quality of the 3D slightly. It was slightly blurry, dark and not always clear. Perhaps the recent influx of 3D movies has spoilt our idea of 3D quality. The 3D sequences were still exciting to watch but it was good to take the glasses off and get back to watching live actors.
The cast however put all the little niggles about set to the back of your mind - they are fabulous. Many of them have been in the London production, previous tours and the production currently running in Bochum. Understudying the role of Pappa was Gavin Ashbarry who took on the elder role with ease and perfection. The Hip-Hoppers Robert Nurse, Lex Milczarek and Glenn Robb provide the modern edge and impress with their dance skill. Mykal Rand is a delight as Electra - all eyes on him and he dominated the stage. Also worthy of mention is Amanda Coutts who takes on the role of Pearl. Amanda has always been one of my favourites after seeing her dominate the roles of Scaramouche and Meat in the London and touring productions of We Will Rock You. She is fantastic as Pearl and oozes charisma and charm. She thoroughly deserves her place on the stage.
Overall this production, however scaled down, and however different from the original works wonderfully and is a delight of a production. I would see it again and again if it wasn't for the distant venues. Thoroughly enjoyable, upbeat and a fun family night out.
Starlight Express plays at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 1st September and continues on a UK tour into 2013.